Written by Andrea Stoeckl Burlew ’93, Senior Kindergarten teacher and varsity field hockey coach at USM.
Each year, my USM senior kindergarteners take part in an in-depth economics unit before spring break. We kick off the unit by researching the following questions: What is a business? What kinds of businesses do our students already know? Our students are then told they are going to start their own business in our classrooms, which is met with excitement and wonder. How are we going to do this?
As a class, we brainstorm to create lists and generate ideas before voting as a means to decide what ideas to pursue. Once a list of possible businesses is created, each class votes to decide which business they want to start. Students then visit a local business similar to the one voted upon to ask questions and research their business model. We go as a class to the business, clipboards, nd questions in hand, reading to learn all about what it is like to open and run a business.
After gathering all our information, we are ready to begin developing our businesses. While developing the business in each classroom, students are also taught many key economic terms such as needs, wants, goods, services, saving, spending, producers, and consumers. Students earn “Wildcat Bucks” for the class bank to be used for start-up money for needed supplies, and for when they visit the other senior kindergarten businesses. Students also learn how to earn their paychecks, and go to the bank to cash their checks.
The businesses take multiple weeks to develop. Students create a name and logo, choose which signs are needed to display in their business and decide how to advertise their products. Lists of products are brainstormed and narrowed down in order to start creating the products to be sold. Production begins in each classroom so there are enough products to be sold. It is decided if the class will be wearing uniforms or not, and if so, what will those uniforms look like.
Once signs, products, and final details are in place, the senior kindergarten businesses are ready to open to the “public.” We invite our other classmates, 3rd–grade buddies, faculty and staff, and our families to enjoy the senior kindergarten businesses. Businesses from this year’s economics unit included Sweet Treats, a candy shop modeled after Amy’s Candy Kitchen in Cedarburg, Wis.; the Cupcake Factory, which began as a an idea to start a restaurant modeled after Jose’s Blue Sombrero; Let’s Play, a toy store modeled after The Learning Shop; and the Ice Cream Factory, modeled after The Chocolate Factory.
Overall, our students relished the opportunity to create their own businesses and share what they learned with the USM community!